(ST. LOUIS, Mo.)—Creighton fans purchased about 5,000 tickets to the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, blowing away the old record for a single school. Wichita State has sold about half that so far - still an excellent showing for a school 450 miles from here.
But the Scottrade Center has 20,948 seats. Many of them will be occupied by fans with no rooting interest for either team.
The Shockers, of course. Here's why …
Creighton could be a short-timer. The Bluejays will reportedly soon be invited to join a new Big East Conference, with bigger programs, and bigger markets, for more money. If that's the case, it's considered by most to be a foregone conclusion that the Bluejays will leave the Valley.
So there's that, and it's no small thing. The possibility of losing Creighton has easily been the hottest topic in St. Louis this weekend, and you can count on it being mentioned a few times on CBS during the championship game.
"I'd rather them be a little sad leaving, than all jacked up leaving." WSU coach Gregg Marshall said of the Bluejays. "It should make for great drama and great TV."
"Nobody cheers for Goliath." That's an old quote from Wilt Chamberlain, who was never considered an underdog.
There was a stretch not too long ago when the Valley Tournament was jokingly referred to as "Coaches Against Creighton." With the Bluejays seemingly having wrapped up an NCAA Tournament berth, the other Valley teams would sensibly hope another team would win the tournament, so the conference may have two berths instead of one.
That's not exactly the case this year - the Shockers have built a solid NCAA Tournament resume even if they should fall Sunday - but they're still a second-place team to Creighton.
"They're the champions," Shocker guard Tekele Cotton said of the Bluejays. "All we can do now is get our revenge, and this is our chance."
For what it's worth, the No. 1 seed has not won the Valley Tournament 10 out of the last 14 years.
Doug McDermott, Creighton's All-American forward, lit up WSU for 41 points in the regular season finale to decide the title earlier this month. The Shockers will likely use Carl Hall - and a couple other guys - to keep him from doing that again.
"I just gotta come ready to play, man, and I can't say nothing, because he's really good at creating," Hall said. "So I just gotta do the best job I can on him and make it difficult for him and not give him angles, so the guards won't have to help as much. So I'm going to just try to make it hard for him and give him different looks every time."
It's the Shockers' turn - Marshall was asked Saturday if the Bluejays, because it might be their last Valley Tournament, will have sentimentality on their side.
"Well, we've never won in St. Louis," he replied. "So we've got a little sentimentality on our side, as well."
WSU fans are no doubt sick of hearing this, but it's a compelling story nonetheless: The Shockers have not won a Valley Tournament since 1987. Since the tournament moved to St. Louis in 1991 they've only reached the finals once, three years ago.
That's a bewildering streak. The Shockers have had a Sweet 16 team in that time. Except for Evansville and Bradley, WSU is the only Valley team not to win a title in St. Louis.
With its rich history and relatively large market size, WSU is one of the Valley's flagship programs - and the spotlight will only grow brighter if Creighton leaves. Make no mistake: Valley officials will be thrilled if the Shockers are cutting down the nets Sunday afternoon.
So isn't that how fans of the Valley - except for Creighton, naturally - should feel, too?
"It's going to be a crazy atmosphere - super loud," Shocker guard Tekele Cotton said. "People should be out there cheering for us. We are going to go out and leave it all out there on the line. Any basketball fan can appreciate that."